METAIRIE, La. – Jermon Bushrod doesn't like to use the word "comfortable," at least not when talking about playing left tackle for the New Orleans Saints.
The second-year starter figures there isn't much room for error when protecting reigning Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees from some of the best pass rushers in the league. The fact that Bushrod's primary competition for his job — Jammal Brown — was traded to Washington in the offseason doesn't change that.
"I don't really like to try to get comfortable in this whole situation, truthfully," Bushrod said, recalling how he struggled against DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys in the Saints' first loss of last season.
When the Saints were 13-0 last December, Bushrod recalled, he thought he had a good grasp of what it took to be a starting left tackle in the NFL. During the next game, Ware had two sacks, two forced fumbles and three quarterback hits.
"It kind of all backfired on me, so you just got to continue to fight to stay hungry and ... continue just to get better on a day-to-day basis," Bushrod said.
Bushrod had never played an offensive snap when Brown, a 2005 first-round draft pick out of Oklahoma, was injured during the 2009 preseason.
Now, as Bushrod begins his second season as a starter, he is performing confidently as Brees' blind-side protector, whether he admits to feeling secure about his position on the club or not.
"We won the battle," Bushrod said. "I really don't harp too much on individual-type things. We just went out there as 11. This is not an individual game. It's a team game. There were times I counted on my teammates to help me out and vice versa."
Although the 26-year-old Bushrod has a left tackle's build at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds, he wasn't a household name coming out of Towson and was taken by the Saints in fourth round of the 2007 draft.
He then spent two seasons learning the position behind Brown before finally getting his chance in 2009. By the time last season was over, he had a Super Bowl ring. Yet it wasn't clear whether he'd get his starting job back until Brown, a two-time Pro Bowl player who was in the midst of a contract holdout, was traded to the Redskins in June.
"It was hard seeing a guy like that go because I was behind him for 2½ years," Bushrod said. "He's a great player. He's a great friend. Seeing him leave was tough, but I guess it was an opportunity for me to go out here and continue just to fight to get better."
Coaches and teammates say Bushrod is getting better. When asked if Bushrod played well against Allen, who had 14½ sacks last season, Saints coach Sean Payton replied, "He sure did."
Veteran right tackle Jon Stinchcomb agreed.
"He had a heck of a game," Stinchcomb said. "(Minnesota's) front four is elite and constantly he was in one-on-one situations, and constantly he stepped up to the challenge. So I thought he played very well against a very quality opponent."
Bushrod is playing under a one-year, $1.7 million tender he signed as a restricted free agent. So at this point, there's no telling what Bushrod's future holds after this season.
The Saints also used a second-round draft choice last spring on Southern Cal left tackle Charles Brown, who is a reserve lineman for now.
"I understand we brought another guy in, but it's a fight daily," Bushrod said. "You can't ever get too comfortable because playing in this league is a privilege and it's hard work."
Notes: After three days off, the Saints returned to team headquarters on Tuesday. They're scheduled to take Wednesday off before returning to practice Thursday through Saturday. ... The Saints travel on Sunday for their Monday night game at San Francisco.